Audism (from Latin audire, to hear, and -ism, a system of practice, behavior, belief, or attitude) has been variously defined as:
- The notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears. (Tom Humphrey 1977, quoted in Zak 1996)
- An attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear; like racism or sexism, audism judges, labels, and limits individuals on the basis of whether a person hears and speaks. (Humphrey and Alcorn 1995: 85)
- The belief that life without hearing is futile and miserable, that hearing loss is a tragedy and "the scourge of mankind," and that deaf people should struggle to be as much like hearing people as possible. Audists, hearing or deaf, shun Deaf culture and the use of sign language, and have what Reed and Teuber describe as "an obsession with the use of residual hearing, speech, and lipreading by deaf people." (Pelka 1997: 33)
- The corporate institution for dealing with deaf people--dealing with them by making statements about them, authorizing views of them, describing them, teaching about them, governing where they go to school and, in some cases, where they live; in short, audism is the hearing way of dominating, restructuring, and exercising authority over the deaf community. It includes such professional people as administrators of schools for deaf children and of training programs for deaf adults, interpreters, and some audiologists, speech therapists, otologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, librarians, researchers, social workers, and hearing aid specialists. (Lane 1992: 43)
Audism is a term used to describe discrimination or stereotypes against deaf or hard of hearing people, for example by assuming that the cultural ways of hearing people are preferable or superior to those of deaf or signing culture, or that deaf people are somehow less capable than hearing people.
Audists can either be hearing or deaf. Audism occurs when a deaf person is judged as incapable of a given behavior, occupation, etc. simply because he or she cannot hear. Audism is often coupled with a "hearing" superiority: an attitude of thinking one person is superior to another person because he or she can hear better than him or her. Audism takes another form concerning interactions between the deaf: deaf people who will not use sign language and who will not identify with the Deaf community may consider themselves to be "better" than others who use sign language and are part of Deaf culture.